By Lynda Shadbolt
Published Oct 9 2018
In 1990 I went on my first ever silent meditation retreat for a weekend at the Guelph Centre for Spirituality. I really had no idea how that weekend was the beginning of a new career and passion with these ancient practices of meditation yoga and qigong.
I was invited by a friend and really only went because I was tired and looking for something to lift my spirits. I thought that meditation would be easy and make me feel good. Wow I was wrong.
It was a very challenging weekend as my body ached in the seated meditation pose and my mind raced a million miles an hour. I felt like I was locked in a room with a raving lunatic as my mind wandered.
One thing I remember about that first retreat was when we were instructed to do walking meditations. There were 30 of us in a small room and we walked in our own line back and forth between two walls. I thought it was the silliest thing I had ever done and was bored and frustrated and quite judgmental. But of course I was too polite to stop or leave. I just followed along.
Although the weekend was hard I remember leaving the retreat on the Sunday afternoon and going back into the world and having this deep sense of awe. It was like I had double rainbow moments seeing everything fresh so alive and new after being in silence and mostly stillness for 42 hours. I was hooked. Something inside of me felt different.
Fast forward almost 30 years and I’ve since been on numerous yoga qigong and silent meditation retreats. I’ve had many great teachers and stayed with the practices even when they have been hard or don’t feel like they are doing anything. Every once in a while I have an “ah ha” moment and it inspires me to stay the course.
Last weekend my husband and I went to Algonquin Park to hike the Mizzy Lake trail. It is 11 km long and when we got to the trailhead we realized the trail was wet slippery and had many exposed roots. It would be a challenging walk.
I took a deep breath and made the intention to walk slowly and mindfully. It would be an 11 km walking meditation. And I quietly told my husband my intention. We didn’t want any broken ankles on our adventure.
And so we headed off and had such a beautiful day. We walked slowly and the gift of that is that we see things differently when we slow down and really pay attention. We were quiet and at one point five spruce grouses joined us on the path and walked with us. It was such a treat.
The 11 km passed easily and I realized as I walked that staying with the walking meditation practice for almost 30 years has given me the skills to slow down and be mindful and really present to the moment. To notice the beauty in the smallest of things.
Sometimes when life is just so darn hard it’s all a person can do is go for a quiet mindful walk. A short walk or a longer one.
The connection to nature is so good for the soul/sole. Fall is a perfect time of year to walk.
Henry D Thoreau says: “A walk in the morning is a blessing for the whole day.”